The Poetry Hat; Piano Lesson; Flat Out;: Poems & Tales in Scots & English, Lochlands, Maud, 2015, 2015, 2016, 38pp., 26pp. 28pp.;

Cheerybye Eden: Tales an Owersetts in Scots & English; The Cloud Collector: Poems & Story in Scots & English; The Wound Man: Poems in Scots & English, Lochlands, Maud, 2016, 2015, 2015, 27pp., 30pp. 34pp.; all titles by Sheena Blackhall, £3.00.

At the back o Cheerybye Eden is a wheen o reviews o Sheena Blackhall's wark. Alan Spence cries her 'probably the most prolific poet in Scotland, and one of the most rarely talented', while Joy Hendry claims that she has 'the lyric voice of the early MacDiarmid'. There's nae doot that, as Derrick McClure says, she has extended 'the scope of Doric poetry' and also 'enlarged its literary range by using it for short stories and novellas…'. In the abuin-mentioned pamphlet is 'The Arching Scythe: A Biography of a Scots Childhood', which gies a fair insicht intil the makar, wha was born in 1947 at Cuperstone Nursing Home and wis, according til her mither Winifred, 'the ugliest bairn on the ward'. It's a bittie sad that Winifred, a 'highly intelligent woman' , didna fufill her ambitions tae be a publisht author or a teacher. Her faither, Charles Middleton, didna get tae extend his education either. Par for the course in thae days, mair's the peetie. They're o byornar interest, the 22 pages that bring her til Primary 7 and the dreided 11+, and there are fine poems amang the prose. At the end we hae this laist verse o 'Homage to the Ancestors':

Many wombs opened before my coming.
Quiet door in the spirit house on the moor
Where grandmother's ghost is weaving a wooden cradle
So she may nurse my bones

Lovely stuff.

I dinna hae eneuch room tae gie muckle mair. As a matter o interest gin ye'd read aa o her poems they are noo available at www.poemhunter.com and her website is http://smiddleton4.wix.com/sheena-blackhall. I'll feenish wi the first stanzas o the eponymous 'Flashback (Barn door Fadlydyke)',tae shaw hoo fine her touch is in the Doric, in case ye dinna already ken:

Forkit lichtnin cracks the Heivens in twa
Lichtnin the pit-merk ferm, celestial fire
Aa nicht the storm dinged on…a hard doonfaa
Ram stam the rain, stottin aff barn-cum byre

Flashback, afore the snawy hoolet screeched
Laird o the teem derk crannies o the barn
Afore the chaumer rikk deed in the lum
Far jackdaas reest noo, sentinels o sharn

A rare talent indeed.

Raymond Vettese

The Doric Gruffalo,  by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, translated into Doric by Sheena Blackhall

Whit the Clockleddy Heard by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks, translated by James Robertson

Black & White Publishing, Edinburgh, 2015, 2015, 26pp., 27pp., £6.99 x 2.

Julia Donaldson kens hou tae scrieve braw buiks fur bairns, an there can be nae mair skeely transcrievers nor Sheena Blackhall an James Robertson. The Doric Gruffalo ('Fit's a Gruffalo, then?'), rummles alang ahint the Scots an the Dundonian anes, an it's geyan upsteerin tae see sik buiks, no juist in a bairn's ain leid, but in a bairn's ain tune. It isnae easy tae transcrieve verses an haud tae aw the rhymes an rhythms, but Sheena Blackhall daes a skinklin joab:

For will ye tryst wi him?
Here, by thon steens,
An his favourite maet is roast tod's beens

Sin the Gruffalo stories hae lang been a favourite o bairns, nae glossary is necessaire. Unkent Scots vocabills suin cheynge tae kent anes, an kent anes are legeetimised bi bein prentit oan a page. Whit better wey is there fur bairns tae lear tae yaise their ain leid undoutandly?
        Whit the Clockleddy Heard is anither pure delicht, fu o repeteetion, beasts' grunches an squaiks an hoos, coamic seetuations an baddies that are sae glaikit they hae tae git made a ned o. Ilka page has a clockleddy wha is whiles deeficult tae fin, but sic braw fun tae luik fur gif ye're a fower year-auld! An the clockleddy, the ainly craitur that disna mak a soun, is the seelent 'hairt heroicall' o the hail ongauns:

“BLEAH!” said the yowe
“WOWFF” said the dug
And the fermer cheered, and baith cats purred
But the clockleddy didnae sae yin wee wurd.

Wi buiks lik thae twa, we micht een stert tae howp that Willie Soutar's wuiden cuddy can brek intae a binner.

Ann Matheson

Shards: Poems & Tales in Scots & English bi Sheena Blackhall Lochlands, Maud, 2013, 30pp., £3.00

Sheena Blackhall can aye be relied on tae skrieve wice verses an cannie tales, an the wark gaithert here is nae exception. She can fairly bring the past tae ramstam life, as thir lines frae her poem on Jenny Geddes shaw yince yon cuttie stool steirs things up:

Like wasps cowped their nest in a fine fizz
Like doonpish frae a nicht o storm an grue
The hale hypothec focht like scaldit cats
Wi Bible 'stead o steens as missiles haived

There's an article, 'Scrievin in Scots', that gies a guid insicht intil the wey the leid wis lookit doon upon, at least aince upon a time, in the schuils o Scotland, an the effect o that on her: 'Sae Inglis wis cauld, a dominie spik, doon-pitten wi a 'ca-cannie' feel aboot it. Fur a lang time I didna spikk muckle in skweel, bit I drew a lot. Naebody leuch at a drawin'.

That laist line totes a wecht o sadness. Hoo monie dreed that same shame, the sense that their words were dozent, and sae were they! Oniewey, she gings on tae tell hoo she got a poem in Inglis in The Press and Journal an hoo the late Dauvit Ogston sent her a letter o congratulations, but also spierin: 'fit wye are ye screivin in Inglis an nae in Scots?'. Noo, acoorse, she can mak the words o baith leids dance til her biddin:

Tribal processions enter the porch of my thought
Grandfather, wiping his beery whiskers
Grandmother, counting the days since her last bleed
Their grandparents, carrying on the tracks of ghostly footprints

(Frae 'Tribal Processions')

Braw stuff, as ever.

Raymond Vettese

Kenspekkil - Fowretie Scotch Spellin Clinks fur Bairns ti Fogies with English translation Forty Scots Spelling Rhymes for Children to Veterans bi Iain W. D. Forde, Fons Scotiae, Scotlandwell, 2013, 40pp., £10.99, p&p. £2.20

Iain Forde an his Fons Scotiae prent hes pitten us aa in his debt for his screivins in the mither tung: novelles lik The Paix Machine, owersettins o bairns' tales lik Taid o That Ilk an Traisur Insch, an nou a spell-beuk tae wyle the bairns intil the readin an screivin o Scots lik the yins thair grannies an grandas hed for thair lernin o English. The inleitin tae the wabsteid o Fons Scotiae sets furth wi: 'The purposs o Fons Scotiae is tae propale the ettils o Iain W. D. Forde tae uise the Scots Tung lik it aye bene the modren naitounal langage ? guid braid Scots … Furmal pross hes devaulit, an mote be restaurit'. An thare nae inlat gien tae fowk at's no as learit in the auld leid as Forde. He screives in whit ye cuid caa a micht-hae-been Scots: no the Scots o Allan Ramsay or Rabbie Burns, no e'en o Lewis Spence or Douglas Young, but whit the leid micht hae wan til the-day, gin prentin, the Reformation, the Uinion o the Crouns, the tinsal o our independence an the upbiggin o English in our scuils hed ne'er come tae pass: the Scots o a parallel uiniverse.

Can he warsle the Scotland we bide in intil this parallel uiniverse, laestweys regairdin the state o the leid? It wad be a muckle darg. Forde wadna be the first leid-scolar at bude tae teethe the fact at kittlesome tho it be tae bigg up the Scots tung as it wad be in siccan a warld, thon war a dauner byes wylin fowk tae uise it in the warld we hae. An houbeit, here he's makin the ettle. An auld-farrant spell-buik for bairns, wi rhymes an wee speils at thay can lern tae myn hou Scots is sounit an spelt: or hou it cuid be spelt.

'The braw broun cou / Hes a cauf ti loue / She gies it a kis wi hir mukkil mou'. That is the affset o the first rhyme, tae gar ye cleik the soun in 'cou, mou' wi the letters ou. But wha hes e'er seen the Scots wird for love screivit 'loue'; an whit wey is thare jist the ae s in 'kis'? I ken fine, acause I hae thocht an thraipit throu the argiements mony a time aforehaun, at Forde cuid gie ye guid an wechty raisons for thon spellins, an for mony anither fremmit-leukin spellin in the beuk. But he'll be strauchlin for mony a lang day o't afore he persuads ilka screivar in Scotland tae folla thaim. An thare a curnie at I dinna see the sense o mysel: gin he's gaun tae screive wattir, whit wey dochter an no dochtir; whit wey w'anes (maist fowk is content tae screive it weans); whit wey saxtene an no (conform tae Forde's ain rule) saxtein; whit wey kivvert but waashed an no waasht; daes onybody say bigger' the wey the spellin beiger wad gar ye trow (for certies, naebody maks it rhyme wi teiger)?

I maun avou, I haena muckle howp for this beuk, brawly presentit tho it be. The bairnrhymes is skeelie an divertin: weans wull tak tae thaim gin thay hear thaem read, or harken tae the CD at's inhauden wi the beuk. Thare a fouth o picturs tae haud thair attention forbye. But wull it persuad ony Scots screivar tae uise Forde's spellin seistem wi aa its kinches an ferlies, lat abee teach it tae thair bairns? I wadna lay ony wauger on't. But tae onybody at maks the ettle, bonnie speed tae ye. An Forde, I lout doun tae my knee afore your bauldness.

J. Derrick McClure

The Gruffalo's Wean, Julia Donaldson, ill. Alex Scheffler, translated into Scots by James Robertson, Itchy Coo, Edinburgh, 2013, 30pp., £6.99

Follaein the muckle thrift o James Robertson's transcrievin o The Gruffalo intae Scots, the gruffalo's dochter's story is shair tae prosper tae. The Scots is at juist richt fur bairns o five tae ten year auld an, whan an orra wird kythes, ye can wark it oot frae luikin at the braw pictures. It's no eith, whiles, tae transcrieve verses an haud the jingle as weill as the meanin o the oreeginal, but Robertson is geyan skeelie at it, yaisin a feck o idiomatic speak that juist rows aff the tongue. Whaur the 'gruffalo's child' feels bored, the wean says, 'I'm pure bored', a 'brave child' transmogrifies intae ane that is 'gallus an bauld' an a 'log pile house' turns intae a 'ricklie log hoose'. The gruffalo becums as muckle a hamewart beastie as the tod or the hornie-gollach. Weans that ken the Inglis gruffalo will luve this ane; an weans that dinna will luve it tae.

Ann Matheson